Author: Stephen Miller
Date Released: 2008
Page Count: 320
Isbn10 Code: 0674031687
Isbn13 Code: 9780674041035
From “The Sundays. . . . What of the Sundays?” asks a puzzled character in an Edith Wharton story set in the 1840s. To answer this question, Miller must survey a good deal of cultural history, limning the evolution of the first day of the week from the new Christian Sabbath celebrating Christ’s Resurrection to a secular day of diversion. Long after Augustine pleaded with his congregation to forsake their pagan Sunday entertainments, the monarchs of the British Isles found themselves entangled in Sabbatarian controversies pitting Anglicans against Puritans. Those persistent disputes took on distinctively new forms in America. Sometimes defined by the political debates surrounding blue laws prohibiting various commercial activities on Sunday, the deeper sabbatical divide opened between observant Christians who spend the day in communal worship and lapsed Christians who devote the day to a highly personal spirituality. By listening to a wide range of voices on both sides of this divide, readers can gauge the emotions that now cluster around Sunday. A revealing work of cultural history. --Bryce Christensen Review This wide-ranging study of the most singular day of the week--as it has played out over the centuries from antiquity to the present--will delight and inform readers. I found it beguiling in every way. Miller writes beautifully, drawing on a wealth of material, shaping his ideas and arguments with nothing short of amazing grace. --Jay Parini, Middlebury College (20081227) A fascinating cultural history of Sunday that draws on some of our best-known writers and public figures. Fluently written, vastly enjoyable, both instructive and diverting. --David Mikics, University of Houston (20090130) [A] lively history of a day that has exercised a peculiar hold on countless human beings for the past 2,000 years. --Jay Tolson (Wall Street Journal 20090201) In his book The Peculiar Life of Sundays, Stephen Miller sweeps through countries, epochs and theological debates to give a sense of the dialogue between Christianity and the wider culture over the proper place of Sunday in people's lives. --Brian Welter (Vancouver Sun 20090131) A revealing work of cultural history. --Bryce Christensen (Booklist 20090202) Miller's cultural history of Sunday observance in the Christian West becomes relevant reading because this day is now being subsumed by commercialization and secularization...The Peculiar Life of Sundays is a stained-glass window of Sunday lives...The Peculiar Life of Sundays succeeds in designing a complex and fascinating stained-glass window with each Sunday life sensitively executed to avoid unfair judgments. --Christopher Benson (Weekly Standard 20090401) Miller is a nimble and original cultural historian. --Jeremy Lewis (Literary Review 20090220) [A] polished and, at times, wistful meditation on the transformation of Sunday from late antiquity to the present. --Fiona Capp (The Age 20091211) A lively, absorbing history of Sunday observance in the Christian West. --Susan Schwartz (Montreal Gazette ) Here is a cultural history of Sunday observance in the Christian West, drawn from ancient and contemporary sources, explored through the psychological dialectic of gladness and gloom. Miller acquaints the reader with the Sunday lives of observant Christians (Augustine, George Herbert, Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Edwards), nonobservant Christians (John Ruskin, Robert Lowell), and lapsed Christians (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Wallace Stevens), narrating a transformation of Sunday that began when Constantine's decree eclipsed pagan veneration for the sun god with Christian veneration for the Son of God. His focus on the Sabbatarian debates in America and Britain attests to the human need for a day of rest and reflection. Post-secular anxiety can be heard in this story, as residual blue laws fade to black--giving way to idle amusements and banal commerce. Now that Sundays are free of burdensome forms, they seem burdened by formlessness, which may be why Pope Benedict XVI exhorts, "Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul." (The Atlantic ) The Peculiar Life of Sundays is consistently informative and diverting--as suitable for the melancholy Sunday mornings of the Velvet Underground as the lazy afternoons of the Small Faces. --Toby Lichtig (Times Literary Supplement ) The idea behind this book is so interesting that I am surprised it has not been tackled before. In an erudite but humorous fashion Miller charts the history of Sunday worship: when it began and how it has been observed, in literature as well as life. --Charlie Hegarty (Catholic Herald )
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